As a student, an alumnus, a parent and a school board member, Randy Kort has experienced Adams Central from many sides.
Kort grew up in Ayr and attended Ayr Elementary School before transitioning to Adams Central Junior/Senior High School in the late 1970s.
Back then, Kort said, the extracurricular offerings weren’t as broad as today, but he still found a way to be involved in many activities.
There was football, basketball, wrestling and track along with band and choir. Activities like FBLA, SkillsUSA and FFA weren’t an option back then.
“I was in choir and band and everything I could be in,” Kort said. “I never played football, though. I was pretty small.”
Kort graduated from Adams Central in 1983.
Then in the early 1990s, Kort and his wife Barsha (Bohlen), a 1986 AC graduate, moved back to Ayr and the family farm and were preparing to welcome their first child when Kort was approached about joining the Ayr Elementary school board.
It was a three-member board with most members staying either until they moved away or died. Kort was excited about the idea of joining the board of the school his children would someday attend so he agreed to the idea.
“I like being involved in community things, and I did it more to make myself aware, not really as a means to do or accomplish something but just to stay involved,” he said.
Ayr Elementary was still a Class 1 school in those days, meaning that the board basically served as the administrator of the school. Board members did everything from negotiating teachers’ contracts and establishing budgets to fixing the furnace and addressing plumbing issues.
“I was the one that got the call, ‘The sink is plugged. Can you come down and fix it?’ ” he said.
The involvement, he said, was hands-on. So when he ran for and joined the Adams Central board in 2006 after the Ayr school board was dissolved, Kort was in for a major change.
“It was interesting then going from a Class 1 to a Class 3 school system because the board’s role is completely different,” Kort said.
“Going to the Class 3 school board, that was significantly different because you’re not involved in that kind of stuff, nor should you be,” he continued. “It’s not our role. That’s your administrator’s role. You let them do their job and you oversee it. That’s what you do.”
Kort said he jumped at the idea of continuing on the AC school board because of the experiences he had on the Ayr board and the extra engagement it offered him.
“I realized it was nice being engaged,” he said. “It was nice communicating with the teachers on a different level than just my kids’ teacher. It was nice to know how the school system was doing financially, professionally, all those types of areas.”
In his 25 years on two school boards, Kort said, he’s taken advantage of the ability to know things. While the Internet has changed things significantly, he knows that it takes work on the part of a parent or patron to find the information he has access to daily as a board member.
“It’s not that it’s not available or that anyone is trying to hide it,” he said of information. “It’s just that you have to want to find that stuff.”
Kort said that a lot of people go onto boards and councils or assume those who do are doing it for one single reason or issue.
The one overarching issue of the Adams Central Board of Education in the last decade has been the elementary schools and the single-site elementary that will open this fall.
“When you’re talking ups and downs, that’s the thing people think of,” he said of being on the board. “I’ve even had people say, ‘Now that you’ve got the school, that’s why you’re getting off. That’s not why I’m leaving the board.”
Kort will be going off the board in December after 12 years on the AC school board. He will be replaced by Greg Mucklow barring any changes, as Mucklow is the only candidate on the ballot for the open seat.
As for his reason for leaving, Kort said that he’s always said once his children are all out of school he would be done. He joined for them and will leave now that they’re done. His youngest child, Rachel, graduated from AC in May 2017.
“Going back to the original statement, my whole idea was to be engaged and know what was going on because my kids were there,” he said. “It has never been a single issue reason for me being on the board.”
Kort will agree, though, that it does feel good knowing that he will leave with elementary students in the new building. He was on the board for all three bond elections regarding the new elementary. The $19.7 million bond was approved by voters in May 2016.
“I do believe it is the continuation of what the founders of Adams Central did 50 years ago,” he said. “I think they saw the need to pull our students together, unify them in order to provide a better education for them. I think we just have taken the next step in that in doing it for all students, not just for the older students.”
“Truly, that’s why you stick with it,” he said. “Is it more fulfilling that I can retire from the board knowing that goal was achieved? Yes, but if it hadn’t been, I would still leave the board.”
Other highlights of Kort’s time on the school board including equalizing the curriculum between the elementary schools and ensuring all students were prepared to enter Adams Central junior high, earning the district’s accreditation and bringing staff together K-12.
Kort said he and his wife knew even before they had kids that they wanted their future children to attend Adams Central.
“It’s a great school,” he said. “The opportunities it provides as a school system are excellent.”
When he was a student, Kort said his extracurricular opportunities were limited. And while his children tried to be involved in everything, they simply couldn’t because “I think there’s more offerings than students can take advantage of.”
The educational opportunities also are amazing with the variety of science and math classes, foreign language, family and consumer science and others that give students variety to meet their needs and desires.
“It truly was a place my kids would get an excellent education,” he said.